The Racine Art Museum Unveils New Gifts of Handmade Furniture
Each year, the Racine Art Museum welcomes the newest gifts of artworks to its contemporary craft collection with a debut exhibition. Open February 19 through May 6, 2012, Sitting Pretty: Furniture from RAM's Collection celebrates the arrival of recent gifts of handmade furniture.
Garry Knox Bennett, FDR Chair, 2005
Mahogany and brass, Racine Art Museum, Gift of the Bennett Family Foundation, Photography: M. Lee Fatherree
This show debuts pieces by artists Isaac Arms, Garry Knox Bennett, John Eric Byers, and Peter Pierbon who have contributed examples of their own work to the museum's collection. Sitting Pretty also features two major works by John Cederquist from the estate of Linda Brooks Sullivan as well as Karen Johnson Boyd's contribution of three chairs created by Clifton Monteith, Roy Superior, and Dick Wickman. Exhibited within the context of RAM's existing furniture collection, these new arrivals further underscore the depth of the museum's holdings.
Handmade furniture has always occupied a special place in homes and hearts. Historically, American furniture makers have distinguished themselves while employing European-based traditions and, more recently, by also integrating conceptual explorations that blur the line between sculpture and furniture.
In the last part of the twentieth century, many furniture makers began to earnestly use their work as a way to explore conceptual as well as functional ideas. Similar to other craft-based fields, this brought dynamic changes that were both applauded and reviled. The 1960s were particularly instrumental for new developments in furniture. As Janet Koplos and Bruce Metcalf state in their recent history of American studio craft: "If a single idea ran through the new experimental woodworking, it was self-expression. The idea that an artist could impress his or her emotional state on the material while creating a dynamic abstract composition emerged from painting, particularly the rhetoric of abstract expressionism."
Conceptual boundaries between furniture and sculpture blurred as "furniture" pieces began to look less and less traditional and artists employed new materials and processes. These developments took place alongside the creation of supremely functional and durable desks, tables, and chairs.
Sitting Pretty: Furniture from RAM's Collection
offers diverse perspectives for thinking about contemporary studio furniture. The title of the exhibition is purposefully playful. Some of the works challenge notions of function and beauty while others add new dimensions to the forms utilitarian furniture can take.
Sitting Pretty: Furniture from RAM's Collection is made possible at Racine Art Museum by: Presenting Sponsors - Karen Johnson Boyd and William B. Boyd, RAM Society Members, Jay Price Ruffo, S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., and Windgate Charitable Foundation; Gold Sponsors - Helen Bader Foundation, Inc., National Endowment for the Arts, and Racine United Arts Fund; Silver Sponsors - Elwood Corporation, Osborne and Scekic Family Foundation, W.T. Walker Group, Inc., and Wisconsin Arts Board; Bronze Sponsors - Clifton Gunderson LLP, CNH America LLC, E.C. Styberg Foundation, Inc., Educators Credit Union, In Sink Erator, The Norbell Foundation, Real Racine, and Runzheimer Foundation